In Pakistan, Shahzad's Family, Friends Express Dismay

Man in Mohib Banda, ancestral village of Faisal Shahzad i i

A man rides down the central road in Mohib Banda, the small village in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province that is the ancestral home of Faisal Shahzad's family. People in the village expressed shocked over the allegations against Shahzad. John Poole/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John Poole/NPR
Man in Mohib Banda, ancestral village of Faisal Shahzad

A man rides down the central road in Mohib Banda, the small village in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province that is the ancestral home of Faisal Shahzad's family. People in the village expressed shocked over the allegations against Shahzad.

John Poole/NPR

The village of Mohib Banda, in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, is the ancestral family home of Faisal Shahzad, the alleged Times Square bomber.

Family and friends in the village are trying to come to grips with the idea that a man they consider one of their own might have become a terrorist. Shahzad, 30, came to the United States in 1998 and became a naturalized American citizen last year.

Small minarets adorn a modest mosque alongside a muddy and rutted lane in Mohib Banda, which sits off the Grand Trunk Road en route to the provincial capital, Peshawar.

Oxen, camels and cows share the road with small tractors and bicycles in the village of a few hundred people — with the occasional woman in a white burqa.

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    Abrar-ul-Haq, a step-cousin of Faisal Shahzad, a suspect in the Times Square bombing, lives in the small village of Mohib Banda in northern Pakistan. He describes his cousin as calm and open-minded and says he last saw him at Shahzad's wedding in 2008.
    All photos by John Poole/NPR/NPR
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    Boys stand outside the locked gates to the home in Mohib Banda the Shahzad family maintains there. Although Faisal Shahzad never lived in the village, his family visits regularly and many people there know him.
    John Poole/NPR
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    Faiz Ahmed, a former mayor of the town, says he last saw bombing suspect at Shahzad's father's house in Peshawar a year-and-a-half ago. He says the attempted Times Square bombing is a tragedy for Pakistan, for his town and for the Pashtun people.
    John Poole/NPR
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    A camel carries a load of hay through Mohib Banda, about 75 miles from Islamabad. Residents say their peaceful town could not have been involved in Shahzad's alleged turn to radicalism.
    John Poole/NPR
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    A man rides down the central road in Mohib Banda, where many people know the Shahzad family.
    John Poole/NPR
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    Young girls watch the mass of reporters and village elders gathered around the former mayor's house. Residents of the town expressed shock and disbelief about the allegations against 30-year-old Shahzad.
    John Poole/NPR

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Villagers say that a home here still belongs to Shahzad's family — even though his father left the village about 40 years ago.

A 'Secular And Liberal' Family

Faiz Ahmed stands before a faded blue gate, shuttered with a simple padlock and chain. A house lies hidden behind walls and the leaves of trees.

Ahmed is the former mayor in Mohib Banda and a close friend of Shahzad's father, retired Vice Air Marshal Baharul Haq. Ahmed says the case of Faisal Shahzad is a shame on the village, and tragic for the family.

"This is a tragedy for me and every Pakistani, every Pashtun," he says.

Ahmed and other villagers insist that Shahzad's family — one of the most respected in the area — was "secular and liberal." Shahzad was not involved with "terrorists, mullahs or madrassas," Ahmed says.

But Ahmed says he noticed a change in Shahzad after he lived in Karachi and then the United States. "He began to grow a beard," Ahmed says.

Villagers said that Shahzad was incapable of carrying out the attempted Times Square attack that has reinforced the image of Pakistan as a haven for militants. And they had a consensus: Faisal Shahzad may have been framed.

It was a claim echoed by Pakistan’s interior minister, who said the case was possibly a conspiracy to malign Pakistan.

A man who said he is a step-cousin of Shahzad, Abrar-ul-Haq, described his relative as a good person, calm and "liberal-minded."

Larger Implications

But retired Brig. Talat Masood says the fact that Shahzad told U.S. investigators that he was trained in bomb-making in the Pakistani region of Waziristan will have huge implications. The U.S. and the international community will demand that Pakistan clear its militant sanctuaries.

"So I think the Americans will put greater pressure on Pakistan and will insist that you can't have large areas in Pakistan and the tribal belt, especially North Waziristan and other places where people could conduct clandestine activities that are inimical to us, the NATO countries and to the world," Masood says.

He says Shahzad's case makes it that much more difficult for Pakistan to ignore the gathering menace.

"I think Pakistan will have to take very decisive action about the jihadi militants, the Kashmiri militants. They cannot close their eyes to the reality that a genuine nexus is developing between them and the Taliban," Masood says.

But Pakistanis also expressed contempt over the allegation contained in the criminal complaint that Shahzad had used "a weapon of mass destruction" by traveling to Times Square with a bomb-laden car. Another retired brigadier, Javed Husain, called that description "a laughable exaggeration."

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